The 100 Best 90s Albums

The Blue Album

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Weezer (Blue Album)

Presented without comment.

Wayward Bus/Distant Plastic Trees

Packaged as a double album in 1994, this is the best Magnetic Fields has to offer (69 Love Songs is wonderful but not as consistently great). Stephin Merritt didn’t sing on either Trees or Bus – reportedly he was insecure about his voice – though Susan Anway punctuates the songs with the kind of melancholy Merritt must have approved of.

ATLiens

If Lennon/McCartney had been born in rural Georgia in the late 70s, this is the album they would’ve made.

Clouds Taste Metallic

The Flaming Lips hit their apex here, not with the overrated, yet nice enough, Soft Bulletin. On Metallic, Wayne Coyne’s voice still had its youth and Steven Drozd made those unexpected, big-sounding rhythms and Ronald Jones was a guitar savant, all the while that other guy played bass. Clouds Taste Metallic is the Lips’ masterpiece.

The Colour and the Shape – As far as pop music funneled through ‘rawk’ goes, no one did it better in the 90s.

Jars of Clay

This basically created the template for what we know today as Christian music. The strumming guitars, lots of ooohs and aaahs, and some very 90s-sounding Georgian chants. Still, and rather amazingly through all that, the songs shine. Listen to “Love Song for A Savior” and replace ‘You’ with ‘you.’ Just try it.

Dookie

I lifted to this. I drove around to it. It is indelibly part of my youth as it is for many my age. In retrospect, though, it was not that revolutionary, neither in its politics or its sonorous themes. Still, I don’t think we were that crazy for liking it as much as we did. I still love it.

Ft. Lake

Mostly unknown, His Name is Alive made some great records in the 90s. Mixing electronic sounds, indie(ish) guitar work, dubby smooth bass, and bluesy vocals, Ft. Lake hit the mark on so many levels. Buy more His Name is Alive records.

400 Degreez

This doesn’t remind me of my time growing up in the Magnolia Projects, though I think it shows pretty well what that would have been like. On top of that, 400 Degreez has two of the best singles of the decade. That’s not bad for one album.

Korn

Apologists for Korn are few, and the ones you find stopped listening to new music around Puddle of Mudd. That’s too bad, though, because this album is great. Honestly, if you’ve forgotten what it feels like to be affected by music, try this on.

North to the Future

This album is a piece of lo-fi brilliance, straight from the book of Johnson/Pollard/Johnston/Malkmus. It’s almost entirely unheard of, though, being released by Tooth and Nail Records, who also brought us Kutless. The world is a strange and capricious place.

69 Love Songs

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69 Love Songs Box Set

Merritt’s knack for creating witty tunes that at once humorously puncture the gelatinous inner core of the ‘sad love song’ motif and yet are also firmly placed within that motif is rather amazing. 90s or otherwise, on the subject of love, this is tough to beat.

Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik

Not even 20 years old, Big Boi and Andre collaborated to make an album of sparse, funky, almost creamy-sounding (in a good way) collection of songs. This is what weed and partying and well-shaped women should sound like.

XO

Elliott Smith may’ve had a more seminal album (Elliott Smith). And he may’ve had a more critically accepted album (Either/Or). And he might’ve even had a more underrated one (Figure 8). But he doesn’t have a better one.

One Fierce Beer Coaster

Influenced by early Beastie Boys, the Bloodhound Gang created this work of snot-nosed, unholy brilliance, in the vein of Never Mind the Bullocks or maybe Blood Guts and Pussy. I think if Weird Al was a dirty old man, he might lead the charge for a Bloodhound Gang reunion tour where they played only this album.

Jesus Freak

DC Talk started off as a rap group. That’s a fact most people are not aware of. Mainly because it’s a fact most people should not be aware of. Though you should know this. This album, the first one DC Talk made after moving away from rap, is good, perhaps bordering on great.

Dr. Octagonecologyst

I love Kool Keith’s flow. He sounds like a cool nerd rapping about aliens and making love and blue flowers. And this is certainly his highest expression. Is it the best rap album? Perhaps, perhaps not, though it is definitely one of the most original.

Siamese Dream

A sociopath, maybe, Billy Corgan took a cue from Jonathan Richman and sunk the Pumpkins into a dictatorship as they moved from their Jesus and Mary Chain shoegaze-inspired rock on Gish and Siamese Dream and into the self-absorbed Adore and Machina which parlayed into the solo albums dressed as Pumpkin albums, Mary Star of the Sea, The Future Embrace, Spider, Oceania, and so on. It seems to me that Corgan needs James and D’arcy and Billy to make stuff like “Mayonaise” and “Cherub Rock.” Why not invite them back?

Everclear

Few albums from the 90s are dredged in as much sadness as Everclear. At once cheesy/schmaltzy and tender/earnest, Mark Eitzel’s musings on love are not for the faint of heart. Am I an alcoholic because of pop music, or did pop music make me an alcoholic? We aren’t giving the answers here, but we are led down a beautiful, harrowing path.

Turn the Radio Off

I grew up without MTV, so I didn’t have an understanding of alternative musical as a boy, back when MTV played underground music videos on120 minutes, Headbanger’s Ball, etc. The first time I had the chance to watch the channel came in a hotel room at the state golf meet in Aberdeen, SD in 1997. I had my own room and saw two videos that weekend that stuck with me. One was for Daft Punk’s “Around the World.” I loved it, though I loved another more, “Sell Out.” And while Reel Big Fish is still a band, they would never again reach their 90s heights. Which is actually a lot like Daft Punk.

Commonwealth

The Plankeye song,”Bicycle,” a poem to young love, might be one of the more underrated songs of the 90s. And it happens to be on this album, along with a number of other really good rock-pop songs. Though be warned, several of said songs will try and convert you to Christ. But if you don’t mind that, enjoy the music.

My Own Prison

The first time I heard My Own Prison, I was lifting weights. Though I’m not special in that regard. I’m pretty sure most people were lifting weights when they first heard Creed, or maybe driving on a dirt road, or drinking in a dingy basement. A person involved in those kinds of activities is Creed. And while I dislike most of the bands Creed inspired, I undeniably love this.

Presidents of the United States of America

Presidents gave us a couple songs we would rather forget, yes, but given they were a Seattle band in the early to mid 90s, they were pretty original. This album of theirs is not extraordinary, though, nearly 15 years later, it holds up. Many other 90s bands, once just as popular, cannot say the same.

Antichrist Superstar

Antichrist Superstar
Antichrist Superstar

The tales of Manson’s persona spread from cities to suburbs before anyone heard any of his songs. Parents warned their kids. Schools banned his music. Pastors preached against him. But how could they hate such a perfect thing like “Beautiful People?”

Very Emergency

Most emo, no thanks. The Get up Kids, too facile, Texas is the Reason, too serious, Jimmy Eat World, too popular. The Promise Ring was perfect, releasing four great records in the 90s, culminating in the succinct Very Emergency. This album didn’t have the self-absorbed art project feel of the band’s early work but instead a self-assured tone, not out of step with albums from The Hollies or Rasberries.

I, Jonathan

Richman originally just wanted to be Lou Reed. The guy who would write songs like “Ice Cream Man” and “Abominable Snowman in The Market” idolized a guy who snorted cocaine off of Nico. Kind of odd, but maybe not at all. Music is like that.

Gold

While not as poppy as Ride or as ground-breaking as My Bloody Valentine, Starflyer 59 lived nearby by those groups in a land of ethereal effects. Gold is not their best album, though, that would go to Leave Here a Stranger – a brilliant dreamy take on the Beach Boys – but this is still very good and worth looking up.

Pinkerton

The Blue Album trumps Pinkerton, but that’s not to say Pinkerton is not impressive. With it, Rivers delved into his subconscious and came out with a searing and supremely melodic piece of art, one, it seems, he will never make again.

Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)

9 MCs from Long Island make a dark album with rhythmic deliveries and effective beats. Seems straightforward enough, but it’s also amazing.

MotorCycle

I compare this album to those made by Brian Wilson, Harry Nilsson, the Zombies. Yes, some of DA’s work is mired in the production of the time, specifically their albums from the 80s. But Motorcycle steers clear of those cheesy sounds and trades them in for dizzying and timeless melodies.

The Soft Bulletin

Sounding like a precursor to Yoshimi, this is the other pastoral, ‘pretty,’ Lips album. However, it was made by a weakened trio, without the brilliant guitar work of Ronald Jones. It’s not a bad album, though, perhaps even a valiant attempt at a great one, but it’s not as good as publications in the years after made it out to be.

Ten

I’m not a Pearl Jam apologist. I never found their politics that engaging nor their rage against Ticketmaster that effective. And I never thought their Northwest take on 80s arena guitar rock overly appealing. In my mind, they got better as they got older. But nothing I, some guy some 20 years later, say will make this album less essential.

Flood

More than any other Giants album, Flood succeeds. To me it sounds like it belongs on an episode of Pete and Pete when I’ve just got home from driving around on my bike after school as a junior high kid. And I like that.

13 Songs

Was Fugazi incapable of writing another “Waiting Room” or did they just choose not to, so as to sell out? I’m not sure, but you have to at least “appreciate” a band like Fugazi. They have their souls intact, which cannot be said for other artists. Still, the question remains, could they have written other great songs like “Waiting Room?” I don’t have the answer; maybe it’s best I don’t ask.

Bossanova


Quiet Loud, the documentary on the Pixies, sheds a few beams of light into the band. David Lovering yearns to be a magician. Joey Santiago is a lot like Kirk Hammett. Kim Deal is really messy. Frank Black is a very ordinary person who wears gym shorts. And Bossanova is another excellent rock record from one of the best rock groups ever assembled.

Gentleman

In the early 90s, there was a zine called Fat Greg Dulli. This clues us in on how polarizing The Afghan Whigs frontman was, often butting heads with the serious indie-rock crowd of that time. Gentleman is his band’s best album, connecting self-indulgent lyrical diatribes with tight rhythmical production. It’s pretty fantastic.

August and Everything After

Too sincere? Too commercial? Too many dreads? Don’t count me in those groups. I believe Adam Duritz’ warbly croons about ‘talking the long road’ or ‘forgetting that girl’ or ‘losing the feeling’ are mostly spot on. Don’t forget, this album helped him land one of the hottest women on the planet at the time. Start a band.

1965

“Crazy” and “Something Hot,” the first two tracks on 1965, might be the two best Afghan Whigs songs. “Something Hot” starts off with a hip-hop like beat, a riffing guitar, and Dulli’s whispered vocals about, well, sex and getting inebriated. Not no real surprise there, but it works. “Crazy” then rolls and timbers along and clocks in at a healthy four minutes. A bit more sentimental and sincere, it starts with the line ‘whatever did happen to your soul.’ Then comes in the wah-wahing guitar, providing the melody. Love this still.

Look Now Look Again

It’s no coincidence Rainer Maria comes from the same town as fellow emo popsters, The Promise Ring. In that cold hippy town, dreaming and pining for love may just as well be an official sport. Rainer Maria thought so too, it seemed, when they made this album replete with moments of pure ecstasy and songs like sonnets which crescendo and decrescendo like a symphonic piece of music. This is a joyful record.

Core

Stone Temple are an often overlooked member of the 90s grunge movement. Mostly because they came from sunny San Diego instead of the Pacific Northwest and were considered prima donnas and radio whores. Both accusations are not so untrue, but this album remains a pinnacle of their, at times, decent sound.

Crash

If DMB’s music is the sound of settling, then consider me married with three kids and a mortgage. Just don’t accuse me of being selective out of ignorance.

The Bends

The Bends
The Bends

This is before Radiohead believed they had to be obtuse in order to be taken seriously and after they developed some chops. Thom Yorke’s voice never sounded so clear. Many of the tracks have a languid quality, but are also relatable and have charm. The Bends isn’t the best album from the 90s; it’s just the best album from the most famous band of the last 20 years.

Mouth to Mouth

This His Name is Alive record isn’t as polished as the fantastic Ft. Lake. Not that a record has to be polished to be good, it’s just that Ft. Lake seemed to benefit from the band gaining confidence. Mouth to Mouth is still great, though, hushed compared to the more radio-friendly Ft. Lake. Mouth to Mouth whispers its Cocteau Twins-like choruses. It’s less overtly bluesy than Ft. Lake as well, which I find appealing, but none of that matters much. Mouth to Mouth is only done in by its obscurity.

Teenager of the Year

As a Pixies fan, I am a Frank Black fan. And this is his best solo work.

Yield

Pearl Jam at their apex, I believe. No Code is for the hardcore fans.

In Utero

Nirvana never wanted to be famous. Nirvana wanted to be the biggest band in the world. Kurt Cobain was an attention-seeking media darling. Kurt Cobain was a deeply disturbed individual. Nirvana made some of the best records ever. Nirvana is the most overrated band ever. In Utero is the best thing they did.

Vampire On Titus

Guided By Voices belongs in college radio stations. Kids in cardigans listening to songs about insects eating cassette tapes as they discuss Kieslowski’s Red. These 90s kids listen to Vampire on Titus, the best Guided By Voices album.

Wowee Zowee

It is 1995. Bill Clinton is in the middle of his presidency. There are no (public) wars to fight. Everyone is making money. Everyone seems pretty happy; we might as well make a mathy, noodling guitar record, says Pavement. So they did, and they made their best album.

Goat

A magical mixture of The Fall, Rocket From the Crypt, and maybe even David Byrne, this record is disparate, histrionic, and pretty, yet raw. Good Chicago rock bands seem to have a certain aesthetic and Jesus Lizard exemplifies that more clearly than other band, and this album does it better than any other Jesus Lizard album.

Throwing Copper

Ed Kowalczyk sounds a bit like Micheal Stipe, if Micheal Stipe rocked out to impress the ladies. Though Kowalkczyk always seemed more concerned with achieving Nirvana than with sexual conquests. And the album he made about his existential yearnings, Throwing Copper, is a great album.

Chocolate and Cheese

Ween’s genre hopping was their boon and their demise. Being able to write an acoustic inflection on par with the best of Elliot Smith then to turn around and make a chill out track that Moby would have loved then to write a seven minute joke track mimicking the epic tales of Spanish love and revenge then…well, who could ever keep up?

Fury of the Aquabats

The Aquabats were funny and charming, with songs about powered milk men, fighting midget pirates, and cats with two heads. Ridiculous, yes, but this album is fantastic.

Homework

A classic pop album by two French guys who made dance music for teenagers at raves. I guess that’s just how pop music works.

Tell Another Joke at the Ol’ Choppin’ Block

Back in the 90s, Danielson Family benefited from “the scene’s” curious fascination with them, though novelty does not take away from the fact that Daniel Smith and his “family” made quality songs. Block is their best, unusual and homespun.

There’s Nothing Wrong with Love

Doug Martsch is probably a guitar god, although I would not be the one to ask. “Oh, you’re using the fender stratocaster american electric guitar with an ibanez ts-9 tube screamer overdrive boss sd-1 super overdrive and a mxr phase 90 phaser with a 6 prod pro rack two marshall 1959slp 100watt super lead plexi head stacks? Sweet.” I just never got that. It always seemed masturbatory to me. Though the way Martsch uses a guitar, well, maybe I could buy extra lotion or something.

Keep It Like a Secret

This is Built to Spill’s poppiest record. “Center of the Universe,” “The Plan,” “Carry the Zero,” basically the entire album is infectious. It also marks the point at which they would start to backtrack. The 90s, however, were good to Built to Spill. Most bands can’t make one great record, these guys made three in a decade.

Things We Do

I’m from South Dakota so I’ve known of Indigenous for some time. And from the first time I saw the drummer, Wanbdi, I wanted to marry her. I probably still do. The blues, man.

In the Aeroplane Over the Sea

It’s about Anne Frank, sort of. It alludes to Mangum’s New Age Christianity, in a way. It made Mangum a recluse, even though he already was. Though perhaps Mangum was just a great showman, maybe this was his plan all along. Make a brassy pop record about Anne Frank, hype up a fervor with a short tour, then drop out of existence. Others have tried this, Syd Barrett, Scott Walker, Jandek, though I don’t think any of them made anything as good as this.

Either/Or

Either / Or
Either / Or

If such a thing as a troubadour still exists, then Elliot Smith is the 90s best example. Here is just another one of his great albums.

Waters Ave S

Folksy, vaguely bluesy, lo-fi indie pop will never be in short supply. Buy an acoustic guitar, a couple of picks, and you have yourself what you need, more or less. What you may not ever have, though, is the ability to write good songs. Damien Jurado does. Maybe if Pavement and Built to Spill and Neil Young had a weird baby, it might write songs like this.

Around The Fur

Comparing the Deftones to bands like Limp Bizkit may have seemed rational in the mid to late 90s. They used a turntablist and didn’t really sound that interesting minus, ironically enough, their first single “Bored.” But the band shed their frat tendencies and eventually released a very heady take on metal with White Pony in 2001, with Around The Fur being almost as good. Yes, perhaps Deftones were guilty of riding that wave for a while, but who among us wouldn’t be caught up such a thing?

Angel Dust

Mike Patton’s ability to contort his voice has served him well. He’s got Fantomos, for the people who, along with Patton records, listen to the Locust. Tomahawk, for the hipsters. Mr. Bungle, for the long time fans. Then Angel Dust, for anyone interested in the best thing the man ever did.

Automatic for the People

Michael Stipe is more David Bowie than Bob Seger. On Automatic, however, he is definitely more Seger, presenting this Americana album disguised as an alternative one. A song about a distinctly American showman, a song about a country losing its religion, one about suicide, another about driving. Each one is a different story about this country.

Copper Blue

After Husker Du conquered the world with their distorted take on punk music, Bob Mould continued on with the aptly named, Sugar. He kept the uniquely melted guitar tone from his Husker Du days but the pace was slowed and the vocals became more tuneful. I might like this more than anything Husker Du ever did.

III

A man can only handle so much lo-fi, guitar-based pop music. But you need to own III.

Slanted and Enchanted

Listening to “Summer Babe” makes me wish I would’ve been born in 1970, instead of 1980. At 20, instead of 10, I could have fallen in love, and this song would have been our soundtrack. I see it now. She wears a cardigan sweater and Dr. Martin’s; she has a bob haircut. I wear a flannel and Chuck Taylors. We listen to 7” records by The Fire Engines and talk about how excited we are about this new senator from Arkansas who will change America for the better. We live in Olympia and are married. 20 years later, we listen to “Summer Babe” at our anniversary and I am reminded of how beautiful she was, she is. She still wears Dr. Martin’s.

Le Jardin de Heavenly

Along with 4AD and Sub Pop and Matador, Sarah Records released some of the best music in the 90s. One of their bands was Heaven, whose best record was Le Jardin de Heavenly, a precious, floating, beautiful thing.

Turn Me On

Calvin Johnson’s droll delivery truly perfected the ‘I am not trying here, this is art, I am singing normally, I am twee as fuck.’ An obvious disciple to Jonathan Richman, Johnson made music that purposefully flew in the face of the mainstream. And this one is a wonderful discovery for anyone interested in retreating to their bedroom with a guitar and a tape deck.

God Don’t Make No Junk

On the heels of the critical successes of Turn Me On and There’s Nothing Wrong with Love, Calvin Johnson and Doug Martsch collaborated on an odd little record. How they came to the conclusion to pool their talents is beyond me. Martsch’s country falsetto ran directly in the face of Johnson’s baritone and their voices crowd each other. Though it’s exactly that vocal barrage which makes this weirdly good.

Screaming Brittle Siren

Heroin addicts making Christian themed records are not in high demand, thus creating a medium in which Mike Knott’s albums are quite rare. The man made a lot of obscure music, though, under a bunch of monikers like Cush, L.S.U., Aunt Bettys, and probably more I’m not remembering. But Screaming Brittle Siren is Knott at Knott’s best. Howling and tortured, these are acoustic anthems of God’s love, and mostly of His abandonment.

Trompe le Monde

Trompe le Monde loses none of the intensity of a Pixies record but continues a tightening of their sound by surrendering some of the obtuse moments on Come on Pilgrim and Doolittle, giving us a hit record full of the best American rock music in the last 30 years.

Nonsuch

The duo of Moulding/Partridge was once again great on 1992’s Nonsuch. This one can be ranked somewhere near the top of XTC heap of great albums, which is saying something, considering how large that leap is.

Grape Prophet

Here is a concept album meant to criticize a sect of Christians. More specifically, the Apostolic-Prophetic Movement which gave rise to charismatic Christianity which bled into evangelical Christianity which is the most powerful Protestant group of Christians in America. So, basically, what Knott did all those years ago was write an album decrying the hypocritical notions of a church which believed it held the only chosen ones of god who are basically the same group of people who, at least ideologically, led us into a war we are still fighting. Knott is not a musician. He is a prophet. A madman who wrote some of the most radical and screeching, beautiful and important, music in the last 20 years.

Nevermind

Upon entering junior high, every child in America receives a copy of Nevermind. Along with math problems and history lessons, they listen to the beginning bars of “Smells like Teen Spirit” and dissect ‘Here we are now/Entertain us/A mulatto/An albino/A mosquito/My libido/Yea.’ They name at least three other bands Dave Grohl has played in and know which Eastern European country Krist Novoselic’s parents are from. Each child is expected to understand which lyrics Cobain used on purpose and which ones he just made up for nonsense filler. Many other facts and concepts will be outlined in the syllabus. This is a classic American rock album and will be treated as such.

New Miserable Experience

After Doug Hopkins killed himself in 1993, the Gin Blossoms were, for all intents and purposes, done. Hopkins had been a founding member and the main songwriter for the group, though his alcoholism had wore the band down so much they kicked him out right around the time of New Miserable Experience (a comment on what it was like to be in the Gin Blossoms at the time). It’s a sad story, but a great album.

Dig Me Out

No matter how attracted to Sleater-Kinney you were, Dig Me Out was, and is, a perfect album of torrential guitars, dramatically urgent vocals, and expert drumming.

Tragic Kingdom

Tragic Kingdom
Tragic Kingdom

Yes it had numerous singles on mainstream radio, but denying this So-Cal take on New Wave and ska is just sleeping. And when an album sells like this one, you’re near catatonic.

Fashion Nugget

I found out about Cake on a lark. This album of theirs happened to be one playing on of those random headphone kiosks in the CD store at the mall. Randomly, I listened to Fashion Nugget and it felt to me like a hidden secret. The subdued horns, the steel guitar rhythms, the snappy snare beats, the vaguely slacker not quite alt country but mostly pop vocals. I’d happened upon my first music which no one else knew. Sounds strange, but, without this, I don’t think I’d know about Judee Sill or Arthur Russell or Bruce Haack.

Bossanova

This is not the best Pixies album. Trompe le Monde has that title. More likely, this album is situated near the bottom of the Pixies canon, right above Come On Pilgrim, at least in terms of songwriting. Though not in importance. Coming out right at the turn of the decade, it signaled a new direction of alternative. Pixies, by way of Husker Du, would be informing a new generation of young men and women on how to write punk songs at home.

Mercury

Sounding like a mix between My Bloody Valentine, Bauhaus, and The Pop Group, Mercury came out of nowhere. I liken it to what abbots might produce if they took a lot of drugs and listened to early records from Jesus and Mary Chain but with more of a Mark Hollis vocal angle.

Laughing Stock

Listening to a Talk Talk album is like sipping a drink on a cool day while taking a nap on a hammock, relaxing, as your trusty Walkmen faithfully plays your tapes, tuning you into the slow-burn experience. Actually, it’s not like that at all. It’s in fact similar to listening to any other music record. You play the music and your ears receive the signals your brain decodes. So I take that back, it’s nothing like my summer analogy. Except, you know, it sort of is.

Use Your Illusion I-II

Appetite for Destruction becomes so much more amazing when you compare it to the ambitious, mostly failing, sometimes succeeding, Use your Illusion, a double album, even though it isn’t. Listening to it now — and maybe then — it becomes clear Rose is attempting to do something without the help of other musicians. Gone are the instant and gratifying metal hooks, and in their place are Rose’s meanderings. Not so surprisingly then, the best of the bunch are the two covers, “Live and Let Die” and “Knockin on Heaven’s Door,” which Rose sends up in traditional Guns fashion, which is say they are really awesome covers.

Scream, Dracula, Scream

If you like rock and roll, you would do well to put this on. Coming from one of the few 90s bands who used horns though were exempt from the ska backlash, Rocket From The Crypt ‘rocked,’ to use a dated term. And they continued to do so after this, peaking with Group Sounds which rivals Scream, Dracula, Scream.

Houdini

Proto-grunge, if there ever was such a thing, sludgy to the point being indecipherable, Houdini lunges along a plane of loud guitars. Sounding like early Black Sabbath, Houdini exemplifies all things good about metal, long, almost meditative, constructions that Ozzy, Dio, and Lemmy would be happy to call their own.

Tigermilk

Belle and Sebastian’s two best albums are quite different. The dubby, yet structured and catchy, Dear Catastrophe Waitress stands in defiance of the collegiate, maybe a bit wimpy, though gorgeous, Tigermilk. This one is for the sweater crowd, for the journalers, the bespectacled ones, and it’s pretty close to perfect.

How It Feels to Be Something On

Jeremy Enigk was just a Christian kid in Seattle who liked to smoke weed. How he became an 90s emo mystery man, I don’t know, I’m just glad he made those Sunny Day records.

The Love Symbol Album

The 80s belonged to Prince. Sign O The Times was a landmark, not to mention his four or five other outstanding funk/pop amalgams. He ruled the decade. When the 90s rolled in, though, you sensed a change coming, and it wasn’t for the better. Increasingly paranoid with the people around him, the man made a serious of curious decisions which would lead him down a path of artistic blandness. Eventually, Prince would be known for fights with his record label and feuds with fans. Even with this recent comeback, The Love Symbol Album remains as the last bastion of his genius.

Operation Doomsday

For the backpacker crowd, this is Blonde on Blonde.

Deltron 3030

Not a huge fan of “Mistabobdobalina,” but I love this.

The Gay Parade

Early Of Montreal was one part Beatles and one part Kindercore. Since those more homemade-sounding 90s Of Montreal records, Kevin Barnes attempted to become Prince, with varying levels of success. And while I do like some of the 00s Of Montreal, nothing can beat The Gay Parade.

Brick Factory

Brad Roberts, the man who would go on to form the twee-pop dynamo Tullycraft, first made Brick Factory with Crayon. And while I’m not sure if a twee-pop band can be a “dynamo,” necessarily, Brick Factory is close to the best the genre has to offer.

Collective Soul

If ever there was a band pretentious enough to name themselves after a line in an Ayn Rand novel, Collective Soul would be it. A poor man’s version of the Gin Blossoms, Collective Soul wrote 90s alt-rock, sprinkled with 80s posturing. All their songs were about big events or being unified in some grand fashion. Oh, no, we won’t forget you, Collective Soul.

Third Eye Blind

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I really disliked that “Jumper” song. Not just because it was played on the radio for what seemed like years, but because I liked it before it was on the radio. That experience, of liking something then disliking it only because a mass of other people have experienced it, is an odd thing. You’d think you would want to relate to others living on this planet. Strange, how repulsive that can be. Anyway, besides “Jumper,” there are a trio of songs that end this album. Each one runs a bit long, starting slowly then building into crashing melodies, and ending with a decrescendo. Hardly anyone is familiar with them, though, even people who owned the album, back when the band was popular. And I like it that way.

Cracked Rear View

A time will come when bands like Hootie and the Blowfish will experience a revival. We will remember the time we listened to Cracked Rear View on our Walkmans while riding our bike to the swimming pool and had our first love. Because that happened to people.

Jagged Little Pill

Alanis Morrissette managed to go from getting slimed on Nickelodeon to making one of the most iconic albums of the 90s. Albeit, Morrissette deferred half of the songwriting (although none of the lyrics) to producer/songwriter Glen Ballard. But she did what she did at the age of 20. She made an album before she could drink (in the U.S.) that would go on to sell over 30 million copies. I need to do more with my life.

Sparkle and Fade

So Much For the Afterglow is better. It sheds the grim that covers Sparkle and Fade and boasts a healthier, brighter, and altogether, better, group of songs. But nothing Everclear would ever do would rival, “Santa Monica,” an untouchable song capable of transporting anyone my age to 1995.

311

As opposed to Limp Bizkit, who mixed misogyny with their rap-rock, 311 had a more fun loving approach. Oh, sure, it was kind of cheesy and a reggae pastiche, but it was wholly sincere. You can’t hate on songs like, “Don’t Stay Home,” “Down,” and “All Mixed Up.” Or, I guess you could, but what then would that make you?

What’s the Story Morning Glory

While Morning Glory may not have been the second coming of Abbey Road, Liam and Noel would be the first two to tell you something like, “the Beatles were twats,” anyway.

40 Acres

This is “adult rock.” It has bluegrass aspirations and folk threads, but it’s mostly just plain stuff. The music itself won’t bowl you over, but when you’re a non-denominational Christian in love with another non-denominational Christian and you’re sure that love is from God and then when that love doesn’t materialize and you happen to listen to this over and over for the months after. Well, forget love, this album will tear you apart

Make Yourself

Make Yourself may be the most critically underrated album of the 90s. Not kidding, if they’d have sliced “Drive,” “I Miss You,” and “Out from Under,” off this, it would have no holes. I understand, I know, this was once (still is?) a frat staple. But sometimes when you walk by a frat, you hear Scott Walker, too. TC mark

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    […] The 100 Best 90s Albums (thoughtcatalog.com) […]

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